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This article is taken from PN Review 35, Volume 10 Number 3, January - February 1984.

Julia Kristeva: Genealogist Stephen Bann

Tel Quel is dead. Long live L'Infini. The fact that France's best-known and most vigorously polemical little magazine has now ceased publication deserves more than a fleeting mention, even though it managed to revive, with a new publisher and the new title of L'Infini, after no more than a quarterly interval. The intellectual and cultural history of France in the 1960s and 1970s- a period when her many-sided influence on the wider world was certainly no less than in the post-war, Sartrian phase -could hardly have a more responsive sounding-board than Tel Quel has been. Indeed Tel Quel's admirable capacity for changing its skin, not merely in response to a change in the intellectual climate but itself being one of the clearest symptoms of that change, has in recent years disconcerted a proportion of the foreign public. As Barthes finely commented in Sollers écrivain, which is still the best critical exegesis of a career at the core of Tel Quel's activity, the world of letters finds it hard to accept or understand the strategy of 'Oscillation'. It can deal with 'Hesitation'-the figure of refraining from complete commitment which Gide, for example, made his own. But it is puzzled and perhaps alienated by an author who 'oscillates' between 'causes' -who will not allow a particular image to 'take'. It is embarrassed by the implication that, as Barthes puts it, the only 'fixed theme' in such a career might be a 'devotion to writing'.

Fortunately Tel Quel was, and ...

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